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What are Trauma Scissors?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Trauma scissors are razor-sharp shears generally constructed of hardened stainless steel blades with contoured handles that allow for comfort and control. The blades of these scissors are bent, and the tips generally are not pointed. They frequently are referred to as trauma shears by emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and emergency room nurses. Various types of trauma will require the removal or cutting away of clothing to expose an injured area to health care providers, and the design of trauma scissors makes them ideal for the task.

Although some garments or articles of clothing can be removed safely from an injured patient during assessment, cases involving abdominal trauma, fractures to bone and other injuries require the use of trauma scissors to cut away clothing safely. This allows emergency personnel access to injured parts of the body to be able to inspect them visually and palpate them. Visual inspection and palpation are part of the assessment process to determine what medical interventions need to be made, such as hemorrhage control or the splinting of fractured bones.

The pants that most EMTs wear while on duty have straps on the sides that allow for safe carrying and easy access to trauma scissors, one of the most important items among the medical equipment used by EMTs, paramedics, and emergency room nurses. Thick denim jackets and jeans, coats, jackets and even shoes and boots can be cut away with trauma scissors in cases of an emergency. Removing clothing, however, is not the only use for trauma scissors. This EMT equipment has blades sharp enough to cut through the straps of seat belts, small twigs and many other materials that might be an obstruction to performing a patient assessment or to the rescue of a person from a vehicle involved in an accident.

Determination of when to use trauma scissors to cut away a patient's clothing or obstructions usually is based on the extent of the suspected injuries. For example, a gunshot wound to any part of the body or involvement in a head-on vehicle collision can and often does cause extensive injuries to soft tissues and bones. Attempting to remove a shirt by lifting it over a patient's head or a coat by sliding the sleeves down the arms could cause further injury because of the movement that takes place during these ways of removing articles of clothing. Another very important use for trauma scissors is the cutting away of sections of clothing around an area where a patient has been impaled or stabbed by an object such as a knife, because impaled objects should be removed only by a doctor, but exposure around the site still must be done.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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